A Full Bench consisting of Justice Arun Mishra, Justice B.R Gavai and Justice Krishna Murari heard the present case. Although encroachments are matters of concern, special Monitoring Committee was appointed by the Apex court, and it was said that it must not exceed its powers.
Brief Facts of the Case
A Monitoring Committee was formed in 2006 under the order of the Supreme Court in M.C. Mehta v. Union of India & Ors, (2006) 3 SCC 399. It was established to check the misuse of residential premises for illegal or commercial purposes in Delhi.
A Report (No.149) submitted by the Monitoring Committee is under scrutiny. This dealt with specific unauthorized constructions carried out in the Vasant Kunj and Rajokari area. These constructions were not on public land. The land was owned by the respective persons (private land). This led to the sealing of those premises. The Committee had acted upon a letter received from the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Mehraul. This talked about an unauthorized construction in Vasant Kunj, Delhi.
The issue for consideration is if the Monitoring Committee may seal such residential premises on private land. This is particularly when such space is used for non-commercial purposes. In other words, the question arises if this Court has empowered the Monitoring Committee to seal residential premises.
Amicus Curiae’s Arguments
The Monitoring Committee has the power to seal unauthorized construction. Hence, its regularization cannot be allowed.
ASG on Behalf of Ministry of Housing and Environment
The Monitoring Committee is entitled to inspect premises where encroachments are there on public land. This Court constituted the Committee to address the use of “residential premises for a commercial purpose”. Despite the limited mandate to the Monitoring Committee, it could not have sealed other premises.
A Special Task Force of the Committee got constituted. This is to remove the encroachments on public roads, public streets, and pedestrian street. It has the task of overseeing the implementation of the applicable laws on illegal constructions, encroachment on public land, public parks, parking places, roads, pavements, etc only.
Counsel on Behalf of Government of NCT of Delhi
The Delhi Municipal Corporation Act is a complete code by itself. The Delhi Municipal Corporation is a statutory body which cannot be deprived of its functions. The legislature has conferred statutory power to seal or demolish on the Municipal Corporation. Thereby, the Monitoring Committee cannot exercise its power in total abrogation to the powers of the statutory bodies.
The Supreme Court appointed the Monitoring Committee to prevent the misuse of residential premises for commercial use. This does not include residential premises used for residential purposes.
The Committee was established through the judgment in M.C. Mehta v. Union of India & Ors, (2006) 3 SCC 399. It considered a largescale conversion of residential premises for commercial use. The only point of consideration was the misuse of residential premises for illegal or commercial purposes. Para 14 of the judgment states that it did not consider the issue of unauthorized constructions in general.
The Court via its interim orders did not allow the Monitoring Committee to seal the residential properties being used for residential purposes. Also, another order directed the Monitoring Committee to take care of the unauthorized colonies about public land. And, the Special Task Force under the Committee was to remove the encroachments from the public roads and public streets. The Court concluded that the Monitoring Committee was only appointed for checking commercial misuse of the residential properties. It has not empowered the Monitoring Committee to take action on residential premises not used for commercial purpose.
The Bench referred to the case of K.T. Plantation Pvt. Ltd v. State of Karnataka (2011) 9 SCC 1. It said that when the Committee is not empowered to take action, the affected persons could not have been deprived of the due process of protection.
In the action of the Monitoring Committee, no appeal lies elsewhere. Even the High Court is not authorized to entertain any matter and scrutinize its action. The Supreme Court has taken such an exceptional measure in the public interest. And it is confined to the misuse of residential property for commercial purpose and encroachments and unauthorized construction on the public land, roads. The Committee has been clear about its purpose in the past. It had in the present case acted based on a letter issued by the Sub-Divisional Magistrate. The Court opined it was not permitted to act in such a manner.
The Monitoring Committee had no power to look into the matter and to take any action. The Court ordered de-sealing of the property sealed as per Report No.149. Also, the possession was to be restored to the owners within three days. Further, the bench remarked that this action does not belittle the efforts of the Committee in the protection of the National Capital.
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